Welcome to the LDV NNR ringing blog, this blog is designed to share the experiences, findings and tales from a group of dedicated ringers. We specialise in conservation orientated research projects, largely focusing on wildfowl, waders, owls and birds of conservation concern, in and around the Vale of York NNR's.

NB - Whilst the purpose of this blog was initially designed to cover our nationally important wildfowl ringing activities, it now also features wildlife and work posts, explaining how we manage the NNR for both wildlife and people.

For daily sightings please visit our Twitter account: https://twitter.com/ldv_nnr (@LDV_NNR)

For details of events, volunteer tasks and wildlife images please visit our Facebook account: https://www.facebook.com/Lower-Derwent-Valley-Skipwith-Common-NNR

Monday 18 December 2017

13/12/17 - Nestle return

Last week we received some additional, and very welcome help, as a team of staff from Nestle in York joined us for a day of their volunteering allowance. The original plan was to work on Wheldrake Ings, helping the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust complete the boardwalk, but the recent flooding following last week’s snow melt forced a change of task and location. Instead, the team headed off to Skipwith Common to complete this winter’s scrub control programme - helping to maintain the internationally important mix of open wet and dry heathland communities, which support the special wildlife that visitors to the Common enjoy. Many thanks to everyone involved for a great days work and company – you’d all be welcome back anytime – and there is still the boardwalk to finish off at some point! 

Friday 15 December 2017

07/12/17 - Winter workout

Last week our team of staff and volunteers were hard at work on Wheldrake Ings, helping out the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust by burning the remaining piles of scrub, felled earlier in the autumn. If the piles had been left it’s likely that they could have floated off in the winter floods and cause damage to the hay making machinery next summer. Any scrub piles can also host species like foxes and rats, which can adversely have an impact on our breeding bird populations if they are breeding in the heart of the reserve.

It was another cold start to the day, but once the work began and the fire was started everyone warmed up nicely. With a concentrated effort we managed to get the last pile carried to the fire and burnt before the end of the day, and now looking at the current view of the Ings – flooded up to the top of the gates – it may be the last time we work on there this winter! So not only was it well timed, but it also provided an instant success with the birds – with the area hosting a Glossy Ibis this weekend.

Friday 8 December 2017

01/12/17 - Fieldfare arrival

Over recent days and weeks we’ve witnessed a notable influx of Fieldfares, along with other thrushes into the valley. These winter visitors arrive in the UK from October onwards from their breeding grounds in Scandinavia and continental Europe, when food sources such as rowan berries, become exhausted - up to as many as 750,000 individuals can winter throughout the UK. 

Fieldfares are rather nomadic birds, moving through the country exploiting local crops of berries, and using damp grasslands and agricultural land in the search of earthworms and other invertebrates. Birds will often continue to move west and south as the winter progresses and temperatures fall – giving the origin of the name ‘feldware’ in Anglo-Saxon, which means ‘traveler of the fields’. Birds will return to the valley once again in March as they depart and head back to their breeding grounds. As always when visiting the valley please let us know of any records/sightings you come across, along with any sightings you may have from the local area.

Thursday 7 December 2017

28/11/17 - Back to school

Last week our team of staff and volunteers spent a couple of days helping out a local school in York, Long Marston, to improve their nature area and wildlife pond, which will hopefully help inspire an interest in the natural environment with the young children. Our team of volunteers first attended on Tuesday to help carry out some of the initial work, clearing out the pond and replacing the liner, and getting the site ready for a team of Natural England staff from the York office who kindly used their corporate volunteering and development day on Thursday to help further improve the pond. 

Whilst there the team also helped construct a boardwalk and pond dipping platform with Reserve Manager Fallon Mahon, using timber donated from Jewsons to the Friends of the LDV.  Many thanks to everyone for the hard work helping to improve this valuable wildlife area – there was certainly plenty of interest from the pupils on the day which was great to see – roll on spring! 

Friday 1 December 2017

25/11/17 - Winter ringing

Our winter feeding station at Bank Island has certainly been busy lately – attracting a large number of birds which have been enjoyed by the many visitors to the reserve. Up to c50 Tree Sparrows have been present in recent weeks, whilst c40 Goldfinch have added a splash of colour. It’s also been nice to enjoy seeing several Willow Tits using the feeders. As well as providing our feathered friends with a much needed boost as the weather turns colder, it offers us the chance to catch and ring a percentage, and allows us to contribute data into the national monitoring schemes – whilst also providing the opportunity to help train the next generation of ornithologists and researchers. Earlier this week George Day swapped the East Coast for the LDV, and enjoyed a successful catch made up of 70+ birds including a good number of finches – Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch and Tree Sparrows. 

Also during the morning, we were pleasantly surprised to find a female Blackcap in one of the rounds – pictured below. Until not long ago, we knew the Blackcap as a summer visitor which arrived in the UK around April, and left again for southern Europe or northern Africa in September. However since the 1960s, the number of Blackcaps which spend the winter in the UK has grown, with ringing showing that many of these have come from Germany (and elsewhere in Eastern Europe), so it's no longer a rare sight to see them in the middle of winter, if you’re lucky you may be fortunate to see one in your garden, where they visit to take advantage of the extra food we supply. To try and tempt them in try putting out fruit, perhaps an apple in the branches of a bush or tree, fat or even seeds.

Many thanks to George for joining us on the day, and it was great to be able to show Mike and the students from AdAstra a few birds at close range, and thanks once again to Agrii-UK for their kind ongoing support of grain for our feeding stations.


Thursday 30 November 2017

19/11/17 - NNR team meeting

Within Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire we are fortunate to have some fantastic NNR’s in our ‘patch’ from the series of 224 nationally, from the iconic landscape of Ingleborough and Malham Tarn in the dales, to the ancient veteran oaks of Duncombe Park near Helmsley and the steep valley sided woodlands of Forge Valley near Scarborough. ‘Our’ NNR’s also include the windswept, dynamic and constantly changing Spurn Point, the extensive reed beds of Far Ings on the south bank of the Humber, and the large expanse of raised peatbog covering Thorne, Hatfield and Crowle Moors  making up the Humberhead Peatlands near Doncaster. All the sites mentioned here are managed by a range of organisations – the Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Carstairs Wildlife and Countryside Trusts, the National Trust and Natural England. 

With us all working to achieve the same aims, it paved the way for bringing everyone together, and so last week we were delighted to be able to host the first meeting of all the field staff involved in the management of these sites. Skipwith Common NNR was chosen as the meeting point, and so after a morning of exploring how we could work more effectively and efficiently together to deliver our shared aims, we had an afternoon visiting the Common, and helped to clear scrub on the open heaths as the informal networking continued. Some great ideas were discussed and developed – many thanks to everyone for their input on the day. 

Thursday 23 November 2017

16/11/17 - Amey: Corporate Work Day

Last week our volunteers were hard at work on the reserve once again, helping us lead a second corporate work day with staff from the York branch of Amey. In contrast to the last corporate work day, which saw everyone get a good soaking, the sun shone, showing off the Common at its best in the beautiful autumn light. With the cool temperatures, 2 degrees on arrival at the base first thing, everyone soon got warm loppering birch scrub on the heath, with the aim of improving the site by preventing further birch encroachment, and maintaining the open heathland landscape of the Common. Many thanks to everyone from Amey for another productive day, and to our volunteers, Nick, Sandra & Jackie for being such a great help. We are always happy to host corporate volunteering or team building events across the NNR's – please feel free to get in touch if this might be something you're interested in, and we’ll see how best we can accommodate you and your team. 

Thursday 16 November 2017

10/11/17 - Welcome help

Our fantastic team of dedicated volunteers have once again been busy helping us with a variety of jobs recently, the main jobs being birch removal and timber extraction, but they’ve also found time to help maintain the hides, repair signage around the site, top up the bird feeding stations, organise the workshop and collect Wigeon droppings for a study on seed dispersal by waterfowl - whilst having fun along the way. Whilst working on the reserve we also try and find time to enjoy some of our amazing wildlife too – the team carried out a survey for Jack Snipe at Bank Island (ringing four at the same time) and helped out with another cannon net catch of Wigeon last week – great to have the extra pairs of hands to speed up the operation, and a chance for everyone to admire their beautiful plumage up close – as always many thanks to all involved.

Monday 13 November 2017

07/11/17 - Icelandic arrival

Each year we look forward to the return of ‘our’ Icelandic Whooper Swans, with a resident flock wintering at North Duffield Carrs most years. On Friday last week numbers were up to 26, so there are a lot more to come yet! Last year numbers peaked at 150, whilst other flocks also pass through the valley to wintering sites further south in the Ouse Washes and at WWT Welney, before returning and passing through our local patch in March and early April. When visiting the reserve please keep an eye out for any colour-ringed Whoopers, and as the year progresses we’ll also be looking out for the rather similar looking Bewick’s Swan, a handful of which can occur with our Whooper Swan herd.

Friday 10 November 2017

05/11/17 - Skipwith sightings

On Friday last week whilst working on the Common we were fortunate to come across a couple of late Adders enjoying the last of the autumn sunshine. It’s been a great year on Skipwith for Adders, with some good counts in the early spring, then after a quiet spell in the autumn it was pleasing to find one of this year’s young last week – confirming successful breeding. Curled up beside the small young was also a large adult, with them both basking on a favoured bank amongst the bracken.  There probably won’t be too many more days left with suitable temperatures from now on, which means the snakes will head deeper into the hibernacula for the winter. Once they go into hibernation, we’ll then look forward to spotting them again on nice sunny days from mid-March. 

Aside from our reptile species it’s a great time of year at the moment to enjoy Skipwith Common NNR, and experience the sights, sounds and colours of autumn. It’s been a busy time for us too, working on the site controlling the birch scrub, helping the shepherd manage the grazing livestock, repairing boardwalks and managing the birch woodland. Among it all we’ve been able to enjoy its wildlife – we've been watching Jays busily (and nosily) stock piling and burying acorns for later in the winter, listening to Green Woodpeckers yaffling, and spotting the last of Common Darter dragonflies buzzing around the pond margins. We were also fortunate to spot this beautiful Comma basking in the sunshine on the bark of a Silver Birch tree, whilst Ruby Tiger caterpillars and Gorse Shieldbugs were hiding among the spines of the gorse scrub. 

As always when visiting the reserves please leave any sightings in the log books provided, thank you.

Tuesday 7 November 2017

03/11/17 - Wigeon return

With waterfowl numbers now building up in the valley following the first returning flood water, and Wigeon returning from the breeding grounds in Iceland and Eastern Europe, numbers have already reached 3000+. Wigeon are our most numerous wintering bird in the valley, with numbers peaking between January and March (depending on flooding), at around 15,000 birds in recent years. Unlike some of our duck species, Wigeon like to feed on the grasses and herbs of the short sheep-grazed aftermath around the edges of the flooded Ings, where they can fly back to the safety of the open water if disturbed, before quickly swimming back to graze once again. At this time of year the birds will readily come to grain, and so we have been baiting a couple of areas to catch a sample in order to ring them. 233 were caught and ringed at Bank Island last week, which will hopefully help us understand their breeding grounds, migration routes, longevity and site faithfulness, as well as an opportunity to monitor breeding success and the percentage of young in the catches. Many thanks to all the volunteers who make this research and monitoring possible, and to Agrii UK for the kind donation of grain.

Friday 3 November 2017

30/10/17 - Team work

Over the course of the last few weeks our team of volunteers have been hard at work on the NNR, helping our small team of staff continue with the ongoing management of the reserves, including scrub clearance throughout the site, cutting the Thornton Ellers hay meadow, delivering seed to various sites, and ongoing timber collection from Skipwith Common NNR. Thanks to the efforts from our team, parts of the reserve now have less willows which keep the open landscape for our wintering and breeding birds, whilst improving the views for visiting birders. It was also great to have a helping hand from some members of the York Ornithological Club, with a small team getting stuck into coppicing willows at Wheldrake Ings – many thanks to all involved. 

Wednesday 1 November 2017

28/10/17 - Aviva Community Awards

Exciting news - The Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley (FoLDV) have been short listed in the Aviva Community Awards, in a bid to provide scientific equipment to help study the international bird populations of the valley, through ringing and radio/satellite tracking. Not only will this help us to provide suitable management and conditions, but it will also help us delve into the international wanderings and conservation needs on a wider global scale, such as our recent work on Whimbrel, which lead to the production of the children’s book, Winston’s Journey. Not only that, the project is also aimed at engaging local communities, taking the results into schools and working alongside local groups to collect the data – a real community driven project. Having got through the initial rounds, we now need your votes to help secure the funding. Voting is fairly straight forward and only takes a couple of minutes, please click on the link below, register your e-mail address and then add your votes (you’re allowed 10) – all 10 to our project would be fantastic! Please do take the time to vote and please share, forward, retweet and generally spread the word and encourage others to do so – thank you and fingers crossed for a win! https://community-fund.aviva.co.uk/voting/project/view/17-1914

Tuesday 31 October 2017

22/10/17 - Helping hand from Agrii

Over the last few weeks we’ve started to get our winter feeding stations up and running around the reserve, to help give our feathered friends a boost as natural food starts to become scarce and the weather begins to turn a little colder. Visitors to the reserve can enjoy the feeding station at Bank Island which is already hosting around 40 Tree Sparrows from our large breeding population in the boxes around the NNR base. There are also good numbers of Goldfinch at the moment – although a flock (or ‘charm’) of 300 are currently present on Wheldrake Ings, feeding on Autumn Hawkbit seed heads, so numbers may increase yet. This year’s grain for both our winter feeding stations and our waterfowl ringing programme has been kindly donated to the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley by Agrii-UK, based in Pocklington – this will be a huge assistance in supporting the work we do and for which we are most grateful – many thanks to all involved.

Wednesday 25 October 2017

19/10/17 - Shieldbug spotting

Last week whilst working on Skipwith Common NNR, we were pleased to still see some of our shieldbug species enjoying the last of the autumn sunshine. A number of Green Shieldbugs were recorded on the birch scrub (first/second photographs), whilst c25 Gorse Shieldbugs were also recorded, along with a single Birch and Spiked on bramble. A quick stop off at North Duffield Carrs on the way back also produced another 6 Spiked Shieldbugs (third photograph) in a small patch of nettles by the Geoff Smith Hide. At the weekend with temperatures soaring to 20 degrees, no doubt many more were out enjoying the warm weather - so keep your eyes peeled on warm sunny days! However on a day like today, they will no doubt have sought refuge somewhere dry!

Monday 23 October 2017

16/10/17 - SEO

Not only do our logs keep you warm in the winter, whilst helping generate funds to support some of the conservation projects in the valley (along with saving you money!), but they are also well used by some of the wildlife so expertly cared for by Jean Thorpe at Ryedale Rehabilitation. Pictured below is a stunning Short-eared Owl, making good use of one of the larger logs whilst in Jean’s care. This bird is currently recovering from a dislocated wing, fractured collar bone and broken air sacks, having been picked up at Flamborough Head, possibly having just arrived here from the continent. Fingers crossed this beautiful bird makes a full recovery and is soon back in the wild. Many thanks as always to Jean for her expert care and dedication to our wildlife.